Unilever Announces Cuts to Plastic, but Why?

It says this is a bid to attract Gen Z consumers towards its products, and of course to save the planet, but are there more  business elements to this announcement?

This week Unilever, one of the world’s biggest consumer products manufacturers, and owner of huge brands like Dove, Lipton, Ben & Jerry’s and many more, announced it would be slashing the use of plastic in its products.

According to the BBC, Unilever is currently responsible for producing 700,000 tonnes of new plastic each year, but it plans to significantly decrease that number over the next five years, reducing its plastic use and therefore production of new plastic.

Top boss at Unilever, Alan Jope maintains that plastic is a “terrific material,” adding that “a hysterical move to glass may be trendy but it would have a dreadful impact on the carbon footprint of packaging.”

In an interview with the BBC, Jope admitted that many of the business’ decisions of late have been made in order to appeal to younger generations of consumers, in particular those who care about the planet and worry about plastic use. He emphasized how much Gen Z cares about sustainability and purpose. He said: “This is part of responding to society but also remaining relevant for years to come in the market.”

CEO Today heard from Becky Willan, Managing Director of brand purpose agency Given London, who said: “This is important for three reasons. One, it is a CEO level announcement. Alan Jope recognises this commitment as part of a broader business strategy focused on sustainability. Unilever has built a compelling positioning around sustainability over the last ten years under Paul Polman and this is clearly a continuation of that strategy, demonstrating Jope’s own commitment.

She continued: “Secondly, it is a business announcement. This is about targeting and positioning Unilever brands for the future, connecting with new audiences. It is about commercial performance, not saving the world. Finally, it is about partnership and collaboration. This is an exciting move by Unilever and should lead to more comprehensive initiatives that are about changing entire systems, rather than simply tweaking products.”

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